As Republican and Democratic senators squared off in a Senate Judiciary Committee room Thursday for an unprecedented hearing into vague and unsubstantiated accusations on Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh’s high school years, the last remnants of NBC News’s journalistic credibility lay in tatters at the feet of its chairman, Andrew Lack.
On the eve of the hearings, the peacock network opted to publish a report about an anonymous accusation against Judge Kavanaugh in an obvious effort to participate in the pile-on of sordid charges against the judge that unfolded this past week in a way that appeared orchestrated and contrived.
The report, published on NBC’s website at 6:37 p.m. carried the collective bylines of Kasie Hunt, Leigh Ann Caldwell, Heidi Przybyla and Frank Thorp V and read like an article that would have been rejected at Infowars for being too vague and unsubstantiated.
The report focused on an anonymous letter sent to Sen. Cory Gardner, Colorado Republican, about an anonymous victim and an anonymous witness at an unnamed bar in Washington D.C. at an unspecified time. In other words, the accusation was completely and totally useless for any reasonable journalistic standard.
If the letter had been delivered to NBC News rather than Mr. Gardner, they’d have no way to follow-up on it and no way to investigate it. But there it was. The anonymous event even found its way onto Lester Holt’s evening newscast. No names and no specifics except for the most important takeaway for the American public: Yet another accusation of sexual assault against President Trump’s pick for the Supreme Court.
The problem for Mr. Lack and his besieged news division is that they refused to run the award-winning report on sexual misconduct at the hands of Harvey Weinstein last year, even though it was by its own reporter, Ronan Farrow. Mr. Lack had been under fire from his own employees for turning down the Weinstein story and addressed the issue last month in a detailed memo to his disgruntled staff.
“We spent eight months pursuing the story but at the end of that time, NBC News — like many others before us — still did not have a single victim or witness willing to go on the record,” Mr. Lack’s letter stated. “So we had nothing yet fit to broadcast.”
In the matter of Mr. Weinstein — a man whose reputation had been linked with bullying sexual behavior toward Hollywood starlets for years — deserved the benefit of the doubt and Mr. Lack would not run with the bombshell story unless one of his victims would step outside the protective cloak of anonymity.
In the past two years, the NBC News brand has suffered blow after blow and this latest decision could very well be the death knell for Mr. Lack’s latest, tumultuous return to the division’s executive suite.
NBC has dealt with its own host of sexual offenses from network stars Matt Lauer and Mark Halperin. The former with his famous, secret button to trap his victims in his 30 Rock office and the latter’s penchant for pursuing his co-workers complete with stories of unwanted groping. and pelvic contact reminiscent of the newsroom Lambada.
Next, there was the strange case of Joy Reid whose personal blog contained homophobic statements that Ms. Reid denied responsibility for accusing “hackers” of infiltrating her website’s servers. Her damage control included NBC’s direct intervention on her behalf complete with a call to the FBI for a full and complete federal investigation. Days later Ms. Reid admitted (sort of) that her site had not been hacked but she still denied ever writing the things that appeared on her site even though she was the only person who could have possibly done so.
To date, NBC has not commented on the, apparently, false report to the FBI on this matter and Ms. Reid continues as a featured host on MSNBC.
Then there’s the network’s participation in the leaking of the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape of Donald Trump. The tape was in NBC’s possession and they sat on it for months, waiting for the most opportune time to release it during the 2016 presidential campaign. Eventually, the tape was released in October. (Surprise!) However, the blockbuster story ended up being a scoop for The Washington Post, not NBC as the tape was mysteriously leaked. A series of events never fully explained by Mr. Lack or any other NBC News executive.
These episodes show a news division in disarray and suffering from a serious lack of credibility. Now, the double standard for publishing anonymous accusations against Judge Kavanaugh but their refusal to publish the Weinstein story sum up where this once noble enterprise now dwells.
The Weinstein story, meticulously reported by the NBC team headed by Mr. Farrow with multiple interviews of victims telling their story with extraordinary consistency and details didn’t rise to the level of broadcast worthy according to Mr. Lack, but a completely anonymous charge with no specifics and no possible way to investigate and Mr. Lack and his team are screaming “stop the presses!”
Judge Kavanaugh’s reputation clearly doesn’t rise to the lofty levels of Mr. Weinstein.
NBC News is no longer a journalistic endeavor, it is a political entity advocating for one faction and weaponized against another. Message sent, message received.
• Larry O’Connor writes about politics and the media for The Washington Times and can be heard weekday afternoons on WMAL radio in Washington. Follow Larry on Twitter @LarryOConnor.
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